Rebels embrace children of plane crash victims at practice

This time of year, each football practice as Ole Miss readies for the season is precious, but, as they exhibited at Tuesday's morning practice by the Rebel football team, some things are just a little more important than football.

As practice began this morning, the Director of Football Operations, John Miller, came out on the practice field with six children in tow.

They were, and are, six of the 11 children traumatized by the loss of three sets of Oxford parents who perished in a plane crash Sunday morning.

As the Rebels stretched and prepared to start some practice drills, each group of players, position by position, went to hug and speak to the children, who suddenly, in this worst of times, had huge smiles on their faces. 

They were included in individual blocking, tackling, and passing drills. At one point, Coach Hugh Freeze, playing quarterback, lined the children up as wide receivers against the Rebel secondary and marched them down the field to two touchdowns.

Heartwarming stuff done sincerely and without a lot of fanfare, just out of the goodness of their hearts.

After practice, the children were treated to their own private autograph session and given footballs, gloves and assorted "happys."

For an hour or so, their grief subsided. For an hour or so, theirs were the only dry eyes in the house.

Priceless and one reason I, personally, am a proud Rebel.

Random Notes:

* Strength coaches' eyes light up when you ask them about a player - or five - who are ahead of the strength curve. Such was the case this morning when they were asked about some of the true freshmen on the squad. . . . We learned: Tight End Octavious Cooley already squats 500 pounds. If you can squat 1.7 times your body weight in a squat, you are considered strong. Cooley, at roughly 250 pounds, squats twice his weight. Not quite Superman, but silly strong. . . . Freshman WR D.K. Metcalf was classified as "a beast" with his 300 power clean, 300 bench press and 400 squat and fellow freshman WR A,J, Brown is "right there with D.K.". . . . OL Chandler Tuitt is also considered very strong as he can also squat 500 pounds and, of course, there's Benito Jones who, we were told, is "the strongest, overall, of the freshmen." And all was noted with lit eyes.

A.J. Brown

* We're hearing that JUCO transfer DT Josiah Coatney is "improving a little each day" and is getting comfortable with his rehabbed knee and his surroundings. At one point during the summer, with the uncertainty of his knee, there was talk of a possible redshirt. He is making that less and less likely as he continues to produce daily. 

* Behind the scenes, a few people were holding their collective breath until NT Issac Gross, who is coming off a severe neck injury, actually went through some full contact work, which he did last Friday and Saturday. He passed that test with flying colors, which was anticipated, but not fully known until he actually collided with someone. Good news indeed.

* In last Friday's scrimmage, the defense was "lousy" for roughly half the practice. They were playing, we were told, with little fire and were not running to the ball. DC Dave Wommack had a heart-to-heart with them and from that point on, they flew around and dominated the offense, for the most part. Nothing like a little boss motivation to get the juices going.

* If the Florida State game was tomorrow, the Rover spot would be manned by Myles Hartsfield and Deontay Anderson, two true freshmen, and the free safety slot would be held down by Zedrick Woods and C.J. Hampton with the possibility of A.J. Moore sliding there from Husky if needed.

* Benito Jones is not only strong, he's explosive. He reminds one of a young, and much bigger, Gross. He getgs his explosiveness from being so strong, but not all strong players are quick twitch. Benito is.

* A player starting to make a solid impression is big Middle Linebacker Detric Bing-Dukes who was said to have "sparked the defense" in the first scrimmage with some physical play and big hits.

* It appeared freshman Left Tackle Greg Little sustained some type of minor shoulder injury when he was blocking DE Marquis Haynes and both tumbled to the ground. Not sure of the extent at this time, but will try to keep you posted.

* Today, which can change daily, by the way, Rod Taylor was number one at LT with Little behind him and Sean Rawlings was number one at right tackle with Alex Givens behind him.

D.J. Jones

* DT D.J. Jones is out for a few days due to concussion protocol. He got hurt in Saturday's scrimmage but is expected back late this week.

* Freshman Rover Greg Eisworth is not back 100% from a pulled hamstring he injured this summer, but he is dressed out and going about 3/4 speed. He should be, if everything goes right, back at full speed next week.

* WR DeMarkus Lodge missed a couple of days after getting dinged in the head, but he was back at practice full speed Tuesday. . . WR Damore'ea Stringfellow (hamstring) was also back at practice full speed Tuesday.

* DE Fadol Brown dressed out Tuesday  but is limited in what he is allowed to do at this point. He is not doing any contact work yet, but he is going through individual footwork drills.

* This year's personal protectors for the punters appear to be Breeland Speaks, John Youngblood and Taz Zettergren, some hefty youngsters who are also good athletes who can run for coverage purposes.

* QB Jason Pellerin wore a red jersey Tuesday indicating he was "live" and defenders could hit him, whereas Chad Kelly and Shea Patterson wore green jerseys, indicating "hands off." Pellerin ran the ball twice in team drills and gained positive yardage both plays. He's a big youngster for a QB.

* Patterson's footwork, quick release and accuracy are exceptional for a freshman and developed beyond his chronological years. He looks as if he was born in the shotgun at times.

* With Markell Pack out for now, and lthe outside receivers Stringfellow and Lodge back after missing a few days with injuries, the coaches have opted to move Quincy Adeboyejo inside to the slot position for now. He has played there before, so it's no big deal for him getting readjusted.

* In brief team drills, the highlights were: Speaks with a -3 yard tackle behind the LOS; Coley with a 15-yard reception; MLB Willie Hibbler with a pick 25 yards downfield while covering a tight end; Kelly to Van Jefferson for a 45-yard bomb; Kelly to Derrick Jones for a 6--yard TD.

* The next practice the media can watch is Saturday.

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